Make sure to read Part one.
Wright Opinion: Joëlle, how was doing San Diego for the first time?
Joëlle Jones: Oh, it was crazy. Crazy fun. I guess everybody kept trying to prepare me for it, but there are actually no words than can express what really goes on there
Jamie S. Rich: Well, even for veterans, it was bigger than it’s ever been.
JSR: So, we just go every year prepared, steeled towards how much larger will it be this year.
JJ: I was surprised how much not about comic books it was. I think that was the biggest surprise. It was more about movies, video games, the Spike Network wants to have their crazy ass models. I don’t know.
WO: How did you find the fans? Is it a lot more extreme at Comic-Con, or just a whole lot more of them…?
JJ: More of them, for sure. Wouldn’t say they were more extreme. I found them to be really great. I’m really excited when anybody knows that I did a book [laughs], so it was really fun to see people excited about my work and approaching me. Doesn’t happen very often, so I loved it. And I loved the drinking, I love the fact that you can buy liquor at the grocery store in California.
JSR: I love the fact that as the oldest member of our crew, I was the one that was always getting up first and I was the only one that didn’t get super sick, and I drank just as hard as anyone else, so, yes, beat the youngsters.
JJ: I found out that I can sleep in my clothes in a hotel bed just as comfortably as I can in my pajamas.
WO: How about commission sketches? I saw your blog entry where you had a lot of them. I loved the Blues Brothers one particularly.
JJ: Oh, yeah, I liked that one.
WO: Is that something you’ve done a lot of before or has San Diego opened more of that up?
JJ: No, I’ve done a lot of them, actually. As many shows as I’ve been to, I’ll do a handful of them. I love doing them, the challenge and the excitement. I like it when people ask me to draw something in particular. I really enjoy that and have a lot more fun with it. When it’s whatever I want, I tend to flub it up a bit.
WO: You get to stretch?
JJ: Yeah, I like… trying to draw the Blues Brothers. There will never be another point in my life where I get to draw the Blues Brothers. I mean, I love the Blues Brothers, but it never occurred to me to actually draw them. I love those kind of commissions.
JSR: And those were the kind of people that knew to bring reference. The superhero fans are the worst, I noticed, as far as thinking to bring reference. A good example was the Superboy. I don’t even know which Superboy he is [Joëlle laughs], but it’s the one with the black shirt and the red and he wears the glasses and the guy was like, “Y’know the Superboy from such-and-such.”
JJ: And I don’t read Superboy.
JSR: I think there’s an assumption more – and this is a normal comics thing – within the superhero element that, “well, everybody knows that.” And not everybody does, and even if they do, you can’t expect them to draw it off the top of their head. Bring ‘em a couple comic books.
JJ: Oh, it felt cool. I mean, it was crappy to lose, but it was totally exciting and I guess I didn’t really get it until I got there, or maybe I didn’t even think about it. I got how big it was, but I didn’t really get it until I got to San Diego and saw how big it was.
WO: The Eisners weren’t really on your radar before?
JJ: Yeah, or it just wasn’t something I considered that I would ever have to think about. I never thought that I’d have to be part of an award thing.
JSR: It’s probably a benefit of being part of the Oni crew, because we all told her, “You won’t win.”
JJ: Yeah, which was nice.
JSR: No one from Oni ever wins. Even Scott Chantler told her, “I didn’t win. You won’t win. Nobody from Oni wins. Christine Norrie didn’t win.”
JJ: Yeah, it was nice of him to tell me that women don’t win and Oni doesn’t win, so it set me up. I just kinda knew, “Alright, I’m gonna lose.” I don’t like the way I lost, but…
WO: Was that the award where the presenter lost the nominee list?
JSR: Yeah, no one’s quite sure where the list went.
JJ: That was rough. I did not enjoy that. I already went into it knowing I was going to lose, but then at least you have that point where they say your name and you think, “Well, maybe.” So, I didn’t get that. I went from, “I’m gonna lose,” to, “I just lost.”
JSR: “Let’s not even mention this person.”
JJ: Yeah, “They’re losers, might as well not mention their names.”
JSR: And to be honest, there were multiple solutions to that problem. One, every person that walked in that door got a list. Two, there’s a giant slide show in front of you [Joëlle laughs] that you could read, “Joëlle Jones” and all the other people.
I was hoping you’d win, just be the first woman. It’d be awesome, and I thought you were definitely deserving of it.
JJ: Oh, sure, but Mouse Guard’s really good. So you can’t argue with that.
JSR: No one really bet against the Mouse Guard guy.
WO: So, I’m at the part of my notes now where I have questions that are more for both of you. To start, you talked about this a little bit, but in more detail, how did you guys hook up for 12 Reasons?
JSR: I had the script and the previous artist had dropped out, and I waited for her for a year, so I was in a really weird state trying to find someone to do it, and we went to a couple of other artists.
I actually really kinda wanted a woman. I felt like that was the right kind of touch and it just seems like in general artists whose work I liked were female. Colleen Coover, Jen Wang and Vera Brosgol are all people who just didn’t have time, or probably weren’t interested and gave the “didn’t have time” excuse [laughs]. I was actually just getting completely bummed about the process and I had a list at home of twelve artists. I thought, “We’ll just hire twelve different people, one for each chapter,” and it was gonna be really completely different, wild, out there people, but James [Lucas Jones] said, “You can’t do your first full-length graphic novel and have that be the case. You’ve gotta find somebody.”
So we were going around and around and around and that was when the Sexy Chix cover was released with just six people on it, and a couple people asked me who Joëlle was because no one knew. Everyone could identify all the other photos. So I asked Diana Schutz. I said, “Does this person need some work, cause I really need to find an artist,” and Diana said, “She does, and I really want her to get something.” I think Diana actually said, “I don’t want her to have to bartend for a living” [Joëlle laughs].
It just kind of fell in from there. We met, I was impressed by the samples, then gave her the script and hoped she’d be impressed by the script. I tried to stress to her, too, “If you don’t like it, don’t work with me, because I need to audition for you as much as you’re auditioning for me.”
JJ: Well, I needed the work, but I was happy to get such a good script.
WO: So you were onboard right away?
JJ: I held my reservations. There are certain kinds of things I don’t want to do in my career. There are certain things I don’t want to draw. So I held off until I read it, but then once I read it I was definitely onboard. But then, after we started drinking and singing karaoke, I kind of just assumed it had to be good. He picked really good songs to sing.
JSR: I don’t remember which ones I did the first night.
JJ: I think some Morrissey.
JSR: Oh, yeah, I did “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get.” You did David Bowie.
WO: How’s your collaboration evolved since then? You said that, Joëlle, you have at least as much of a role in shaping what’s gonna be next. Do you guys hash out ideas together?
JJ: In my opinion – I know Jamie’s opinion is going to be completely different – but in my opinion, this is how it works: We go out and we drink and we get really drunk and we talk a lot. And then he’ll come to me the next day and say, “I’m gonna really work on that idea we had last night.” I say, “Oh, great.” A couple weeks later he shows me a script I don’t even remember talking about, there it is. And I like it.
JSR: That’s probably about right. And we pretty much let each other do our own thing. One of our friends once said to me, “The funny thing about watching you guys is you’re so eager to impress one another.” I think that’s made us better because when I’m writing, I think, “This has to be really good because she’s gonna draw it and I want her to like it.”
So we’ll talk about things and then there are certain elements throughout the process that I’ll throw out. I think there were four endings to You Have Killed Me that it could have gone to and I gave all those to her. We’d whittle that down together, or I’d say what kind of thing do you want to draw, and she’d tell me, “I’d love to draw something like this, I’d love to draw something like that.”
My process is I’m such a sponge with entertainment and everything I look at. A lot more comes out of our conversations that probably even she intends to. That’s, for me, been the valuable element of the collaboration, just the general talking and being creative in the same space.
WO: Do you rewrite at all after you get pages back?
JSR: No, I haven’t had to. I only would if I felt like either I hadn’t gotten it right in the dialogue or if she made some dialogue redundant, but so far I haven’t. 12 Reasons is as-written.
JJ: I notice I take a lot more liberties now that we relate to each other more. I’ll cut out complete panels, or – you didn’t catch it, but a whole thing about [the lead character in You Have Killed Me] throwing a rock that I completely cut out.
JSR: How dare you?
JJ: But there’s no dialogue, I don’t think.
JSR: Oh, yeah, I remember that scene. That was a good scene.
JJ: No, it just didn’t work for me.
JJ: That was all Jamie. He wrote that. I think 12 Reasons was really solid when I got it. He knew exactly what he wanted, no bones about it. And I think with You Have Killed Me, it’s different. Not to say it’s not solid. It’s more organic; there’s a lot more left to me as far as backgrounds, things like that. It’s, “Somewhere in the woods. Cabin. House kinda thing. You figure it out.” And I feel like he trusts me maybe more to make some decisions on that, which is really nice.
JSR: You added a lot gesture-wise and expression-wise to 12 Reasons, because I didn’t map all of the acting. Like the scene in the cab, there’s not a lot of description except for the emotional switches. But there are other things that she’ll add when the two characters are in the panel and only one of them is talking and maybe that was the only one I focused on in the script.
Once you’ve worked with somebody, you know what they’re capable of. There’s no fear of letting her run with it. I mean, if something came back story-wise and I thought, “No, that detail had to be in there,” I would probably say something, but as she just revealed, she cut a whole sequence, and until I sat down with the script and looked at it, I probably wouldn’t have had any idea. I also get it out of order, so it’s not like I know, “Oh, page 88 is that page.”
WO: So, the short stories for Popgun and Alien Safeword... do you guys just pitch stuff together now? Are you guys each other’s default collaborator at this point?
JSR: Actually, on both of those, I was approached. The one for Popgun I’d actually had sitting around for a little while. The one for Alien Safeword, “Reverberation,” I wrote because they asked, “Do you wanna do something?” and I just came up with that and at the time we didn’t know who was gonna draw it. She’s my default, but I still have to tell the editor this is what I want. I don’t even know if 12 Reasons was out yet when I first got approached, so they didn’t really know who she was.
JJ: No, it wasn’t out.
JSR: I think they wanted me to get Scott Morse, and I said, “No, I want you to see this girl first.”
JJ: Scott Morse would have been great.
JSR: He would have been good, but you were better, no offense to Scott, whom I adore, but for me, you were the guy. And then “Me and the Cat” I gave to her just to read, because they had approached me, again just on my own, so I thought, “I’ll give Joëlle the pass at it first.” And I’ll probably get more confident about insisting on that. At the same time, it also is schedules: how do I fit in, how is she going to be able to fit it in type of thing.
WO: So you guys are planning to continue working together and doing whatever projects come up for the foreseeable future?
JJ: Yeah, but also I wouldn’t mind if he worked with other people and he doesn’t mind if I work with other people, so it’s nice that way.
JJ: Yeah, it’s nice and healthy.
JSR: Oh, I mind.
JJ: [laughs] He does not mind!
JSR: I mind.
JJ: Don’t listen to him. What an ass. He doesn’t mind.
JSR: I don’t wanna share.
JJ: He’s like, “Oh, Token, what’re you doing?”
JSR: That’s a regular refrain. “Oh, Token.” That’s now my cuss word at home. I stub my toe, “Token!”
WO: Just a couple more short questions. What are you guys both reading, inside comics and I guess outside as well?
JJ: I’m reading [Douglas Wolk’s book] Reading Comics right now. It’s good.
JSR: Yeah, it’s good.
JJ: It’s fantastic. I really enjoy it. I’m pretty much devouring it. And that’s kind of got a foot in, a foot out of comics.
JSR: I’ve been addicted to Death Note, like everybody else, and Monster we’ve been sharing.
JJ: Oh, yeah, Monster’s so good.
JSR: I’ll go the library and get stuff and if I think she’ll like it, I’ll give it to her. Monster’s addictive.
JJ: Monster’s fantastic. It’s better than Harry Potter, for sure.
JSR: And then, I’ve been reading The Programme, because I’m a big Peter Milligan fan. We read all the Oni stuff, because they give it to us. I tend to follow people more than titles anymore. I like Matt Fraction, I like Ed Brubaker, Peter Milligan, obviously.
JJ: I like to reread stuff I like. I just reread Spaghetti Western [by Scott Morse]. I really love it, so I reread that again.
JSR: I tend to get more prose read when we fly. On the flight to and from San Diego I read the Anita Loos book, that actually is two books, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes/But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. It’s the diary of a flapper, spelling mistakes and all, and it’s unbelievably hysterical, and full of these fantastic 1920s/1930s illustrations. And I’ve been reading Anna Karenina now for about six months and I’m about halfway through.
JJ: Bleh. I read that.
JSR: I’ve liked it so far. I’m reading a different translation than you, though. It’s supposed to be better. It’s more loose, not as stuffy.
JJ: Mine is really boring. But I read it. Also, I just finished Harry Potter, the last one.
JSR: I haven’t read any of Harry Potter.
JJ: I’m not giving any spoilers, if you’re looking for ‘em.
JSR: Hermione’s a dude.
WO: Do you both listen to music while you work? Jamie, I assume you must.
JSR: I do constantly, yeah.
JJ: No. I like to listen to books on tape, I like to listen to talk radio. I need the talking head.
JSR: I find that’s true of a lot artists. NPR, books on tape…
JSR: I can’t process information like that. It goes by, doesn’t distract me, I just don’t hear it.
JJ: Because you’re using words.
JSR: I just don’t even notice it, whereas for some reason the music– I actually recently described it on the Largehearted Boy blog. They do soundtracks to books, so I did a soundtrack for Horizon, which was my own personal playlist for getting myself in the mood for writing, but I noted that it was a book where I consciously said I don’t want pop music in it. I have to do it without. It’s my challenge to myself.
Which was weird, because as I described, normally I’m like a pen where it sucks up a bunch of ink and I just splat it right on the page, reference-wise. If you read The Everlasting, the stuff that comes up is less planned than it was just what I was listening to.
WO: So, what have you been listening to lately while you’ve been writing, or just generally even?
JSR: The last book I did had a lot of really downer songs, a lot of songs with titles like “Love is Dead” and “Love is a Losing Game,” so that should point some people to what’s coming up. I can’t stop listening to Amy Winehouse. It’s that album where everybody said, “I didn’t think it would be any good,” and then you listen to it and it’s just unbelievably good.
JJ: Eh, they played it at my gym. I’ve had it. Once they play it at my gym, I’m not listening to it anymore.
JSR: I have no outside influences, though. I get to play what I want. A lot of Sam Cooke has been a new obsession. I love the Girl Groups from the ‘60s, and I’ve been getting into the French side of it, the Ye Ye girl stuff.
WO: Are the soundtrack suggestions in things like 12 Reasons and Love the Way You Love the things you were listening to while you were writing?
JSR: Yeah, I describe it as if I were editing a film. I’m cutting to the rhythm of a scene, so you don’t need to know what the song is, you don’t need to hear it to enjoy it, obviously, but if you actually were playing it while you read, it actually would fit the pacing hopefully of how I wrote it and how I broke it down.
WO: When the writer of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane went exclusive with another publisher, your name was one of the ones mentioned as a possible replacement. Was that just a rumor, or were you in the running for that?
JSR: I campaigned for it. As I understand, Tom Beland did as well, because we talked to each other during the process. We both talked to the editor, Mark Paniccia, about it, so we were really in contention. As it turns out, so was Andi Watson.
None of us knew who got it, though. We all knew we were turned down, which was actually impressive to all three of us, because usually you don’t even get turned down, you just read, “Oh, that guy got it.” And we actually all were turned down long before they announced Terry Moore. I can’t feel bad, like, “Oh, they turned me down to hire Terry Moore.” I mean, I would have felt bad if they picked some nobody, then “Fuck those guys.” But, eh, that’s the way it goes.
WO: So, are both of you interested in working for DC or Marvel if that worked out?
JSR: She’s working for DC, and we both have certain irons in the fire. I’ve pitched before, I just don’t usually talk about it, because then you gotta answer what happened to that project.
When the rumor about Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane showed up in Rich Johnston’s column, Tom Beland and I had both already been turned down and we messaged each other, “I’m not telling, are you?” [Joëlle laughs] Because at that point, anybody reading might think, “Who are these guys?” and then look us up, so it’s the Fortune and Glory/Bendis equation of heat equals bullshit. “Well, it’s bullshit, but I might get some heat off of it, so I might as well keep it out there.”
I don’t get approached a lot. I think people are afraid to approach me for old indy reasons, so mostly people I’m pitching to are old friends.
WO: People assume you’re a snob?
JSR: Yeah, I think so, and I think they just in general think I’m going to say no. I’ve been offered jobs at Marvel and DC, editing-wise, multiple times, but never actually offered it [directly]. They’ll find a guy, “Oh, you used to work with him. Now you work here, can you ask him if he would take Joe Quesada’s call and consider it?” So in this roundabout way, instead of actually calling me up, they’ll get a big guy that they know I’ll talk to. And every time, it’s been, “Nah.” I always thought it’d be a bad match editing-wise. So that might carry over writing-wise.
When I left Oni, I wanted to be left alone, so I was pretty good about publicly saying, “Leave me the hell alone.” I just didn’t think they’d listen. There are multiple creators that shoot their mouths off regularly who still get work.
WO: Without going into any of those pitch stories, are there any characters or general genres that are mostly associated with the larger publishers that either of you would like to try?
JSR: There is. One of the long lost pitches is when C. B. Cebulski was editing the Marvel Mangaverse, he came to me and the first thing I pitched was Cypher and Warlock from The New Mutants.
Cypher was such a great character because it’s like, “I got a superpower! What is it? Oh, I can speak any language. I’m still lame.” [Joëlle and WO laugh] And he gets a robot who’s insane, but they become this team, so if it’s manga, I wanted to take the giant robot thing and turn it on its ear. C. B. really liked it, but that was in the Jemas period and fortunes changed constantly.
Recently I joked, because the Essential Dazzler came out, I’d revamp Dazzler in a heartbeat. It wouldn’t take much.
WO: Joëlle, do you have any you wanna do?
JJ: Oh, yeah, there’re hundreds and hundreds that I would love to do. There’s not much I wouldn’t want to do, really. I mean, it’s hard for me to narrow it down.
WO: Any that you particularly like? That, say, you particularly enjoyed doing commissions of? Not Superboy?
JJ: [laughs] Not Superboy. I’m not very good at drawing hunky guys. I really enjoyed drawing Fables a lot. I would love to do more work for Fables. I like the characters, I like the fanbase a lot and so that was really exciting to work for.
JJ: I love Gen 13 very much. I’ve been wanting to draw that since I was, I don’t know, thirteen.
JSR: Because both the editor, Ben Abernathy, and Gail Simone know her and want her to do something, it’s just a matter of when and what.
JJ: It would be fun. There’re so many projects that I would love to work on, it’s hard for me to name them. My mind gets flooded. I mean, there’s not much I would turn down, because I want a lot of experience. I want to try all different genres. My only thing is I don’t want to be stuck doing romance for the rest of my life. That’s my only standard right now.
WO: Is that part of the impetus behind You Have Killed Me?
JJ: Yeah. It’s just – and no offense against anybody – romance has never been my genre. It’s not something I would ever seek out to read, and I want something that would excite me. I would say that with 12 Reasons I was surprised. I was excited and I enjoyed drawing a romance comic and it shocked me, because I didn’t think I would, because I don’t even like reading them. I don’t like romantic movies, I don’t like romantic things, so I was surprised, but yeah, I don’t wanna get pigeon-holed.
JSR: So says the girl who’s seen Bride and Prejudice about twenty times.
JJ: Man, only because I love the Bollywood dance sequences.
JSR: Even I can’t make it through that movie. The worst Mr. Darcy ever.
JJ: It is, but I wanna dance like that. I wanna wear a sari and dance. It’s the Bollywood that I like.
WO: Last question: What is the deal with Audrey Hepburn, anyway?
JJ: [laughs] That’s a good question.
JSR: What isn’t the deal with Audrey Hepburn? On Journalista today Dirk Deppey posted some weird Italian cover from some magazine of Audrey Hepburn torture porn.
JSR: It was a very young Audrey Hepburn laid flat out on a table and her bits are only covered by the guy in some strange mad scientist suit looming over and she’s like strapped out, spread–
JJ: How did you find this again?
JSR: It was on one of the leading comics blogs. I guess there’s some Fantagraphics/Comics Journal board discussion of the most disturbing images in comics right now and somebody pulled this out of their hat, “Here’s Audrey Hepburn in a torture porn film.”
JJ: Oh, my God.
WO: Well, that’s one of those Internet rules, right? If it exists, there’s porn of it.
JSR: Exactly. Someone somewhere has a website…
I don’t know, there’s a personality to it. She’s the same sort of person as the character, which is the great thing about old Hollywood, is that they are their persona at the same time. She’s the one who could probably hang with anybody. There’s just something very appealing about her style. She’s also one of the only old Hollywood actors where they can’t destroy her reputation. There’re no dirty scandals that keep popping up and no questions of, “Did she do this, did she do that?” So, there’s just something about her onscreen that’s always been appealing to me.
And, y’know, I want to be her.
WO: There you go.
JSR: Eh, what is the deal with Audrey Hepburn, Joëlle?
JJ: I don’t know.
Thanks again to Jamie and Joëlle. The interview was transcribed by myself and copy-edited by everyone involved.